His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials

Godstow Priory was a nunnery in Oxfordshire in Lyra's world. Lyra Belacqua spent a few weeks of her infancy here, before the attempt on her life during the flood. After this, she was given scholastic sanctuary at Jordan College. The priory had been open for eight hundred years.[1]

The priory had an orchard where apples, pears, plums, and damsons were grown on the opposite side of the garden to the River Thames. The nuns sold the fruit and vegetables they grew. One notable buyer of the apples was The Trout Inn, who used them in some desserts. They also made money from making vestments for clergymen.[2]

The nuns that lived at the priory were part of the Order of St Rosamund. They slept in bedrooms on the ground floor of the building.

The nuns had a parlour where they received guests. This was Lyra's bedroom during her stay at the priory.[3] The room was quite dark so, soon, the nuns changed the wallpaper to cream and added rugs on the floor. Malcolm Polstead and Mr Taphouse set about making furniture for her room.[4]


The priory welcomed many guests of a more higher class than those in The Trout Inn. These were often lords, ladies, bishops and lesser clergy, people who couldn't expect hospitality from the surrounding colleges. Malcolm once witnessed a princess who had been sent to the priory for punishment. Malcolm helped out with looking after these guests, sometimes giving massages, looking after horses or cleaning boots and occasionally being tipped.[2]


During the flood of 1986, the gatehouse and several other parts of the building were destroyed. 7 of the nuns were killed and 2 went missing during the flood.[5]

After the flood, the priory was left in ruins and was too expensive to repair. As a lot of nuns died on that night, it would have been really hard to restart it.[6] Malcolm said twenty years after the floods that, should the Rectification of Historical Anomalies Bill be passed in Parliament, then the ruins of the priory would be up for sale.[7]

Behind the scenes[]

  • There was a Godstow Abbey in our world, but it got dissolved. It was founded in 1133 and is, indeed, across the river from The Trout Inn. The ruins of Godstow Abbey can still be seen - and explored - today.


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